A Bird / A Path
The bird looked just like her ex-husband, so she hated it. It was a
productive hate. She would arrive home from work and find the bird still
there in the living room, which contained the TV but also the bird's brass
cage and its newspaper shittings and its beaked, judging face. So: she
avoided the living room, spent her evenings instead tending to a garden,
organizing a basement, or downing a bottle of wine in the woods behind her
house. She loved a good project.
She had bought the little cage because she liked the tarnished look of it,
thought it would make for good knick-knackery. She was on her own and buying
things in order to be alive in a new kind of way. She doesn't know when the
bird arrived, just that suddenly there was chirping and a frail little
monster eyeing her in her own home.
She thought to drive a sewing needle into its breast. She thought to put
bird and cage in a gutter. She thought to sell it, to give it away to the
young girl down the street, to shake the cage until it stopped shaking back,
to pickle it and prepare it the way the French used to do, ortolan, a meal
that supposedly God himself despised, not that God had bothered much with
her. The bird sat there on a perch regarding her with one eye, and she
didn't do any of these things. She fed it more seed and bought it a little
mirror, hoping it would stop looking at her. It didn't.
She did not want to be a bird person and feared she was. This is one trouble
in being alive. She thought herself intentional, a spreadsheeter, a woman
with a five-year plan. The bird would chirp, and she would wince, a person
trapped inside a context that narrowed and would keep narrowing until it reached
Zach VandeZande has stories in or coming from Ninth Letter, Georgia Review, Booth and
many others. He teaches at Central Washington U.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
of Ruth Hartnup.
W i g l e a f